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Tuesday, March 14, 2017


Here's a piece on Reading the Pictures, which also appears on No Caption Needed, two web sites I have brought up in the past as bastions of pseudo-intellectual wankery.

Let me quote the author's bio:

Robert Hariman is a professor in the department of communication studies at Northwestern University. His publications include No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, which he co-authored with John L. Lucaites. He and John maintain the blog No Caption Needed, which provides commentary on photojournalism, politics, and culture.

And now let us examine the essay.

Standard rehash of complaints about Trump, standard narrative about social media comma Trump's mastery of, etcetera. Focus on the Trump presidency's lack of transparency. Ok, fair enough, I agree with all of this. It's not exactly deep analysis or interesting at this point, Hariman isn't saying anything that isn't basically part of the standard narrative, simplified form, aimed at 6th graders and up.

Then we get a photograph of some stuff that's on fire, and a paragraph that starts off thus:

"So we get to the photograph above after all. Eye catching, yet mournful: a visual art work of a sort."

Wait, what? How do we get to a photo of, um, I guess it's a camp used by the DAPL protesters, which said protesters (someone?) have set afire for reasons the author does not share with us. "So we get to this photograph" in what way, exactly? Can you show me, if not the path, at least the trailhead? Point in a general direction? Give me a faint clue? Anything? Is it uphill or downhill? No? Ok, then.

Then some discussion of the snowflakes on the lens (obviously written by a non-photographer, the snowflakes are quite clearly not on the lens at all, but falling in front of it) with some blather about how the snowflakes obscure the scene (which they do not, but which seems to be the author's only stab at an actual connection to the anti-Trump rehash) and make the photograph "reflexive" (which they do, if you're a rube who reads them as "on the lens").

And then, just as suddenly we're back to simple-minded analysis of Trump's campaign, photograph long forgotten.

I give this paper an F. This guy is a professor at Northwestern?

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